Attorneys for Ghislaine Maxwell, the former social companion of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, are seeking a new trial after one of the jurors claimed to be a victim of sexual abuse as a child.
In a letter to U.S. District Court Judge Alison Nathan, Maxwell’s defense attorneys argued that based on interviews conducted with one of the jurors for several media outlets, where he revealed that he used his experience as a victim of sexual abuse to potentially sway the jury, the Southern District of New York could and should order a new trial. “It is clear to Ms. Maxwell that based on this record alone a new trial is required,” the lawyers wrote, via the Associated Press.
Nathan, who presided over the trial, set a procedural schedule for a formal request for a new trial. Defense attorneys should file their motion to request a new trial by January 19th, and prosecutors have until February 2nd to respond. Nathan also instructed defense attorneys to determine whether “an inquiry of some kind” can or should be conducted.
The judge’s ruling followed an announcement by Maxwell’s lawyers that she would request a new trial, filing a motion that would specifically include the known and undisputed remarks made by the juror, along with the jury questionnaire and recorded statements by the jurors.
Prosecutors also addressed the interviews in their own letter to the Court. “The Government believes the court should conduct an inquiry. The Government proposes that the Court schedule a hearing in approximately one month, along with an appropriate schedule for pre-hearing briefing regarding the applicable law and the scope of the hearing,” prosecutors wrote, via the New York Post.
“The Government respectfully submits that any juror investigation should be conducted exclusively under the supervision of the Court,” they added, via AP.
Defense lawyers disagreed. “[Ba]sed on undisputed, publicly available information, the Court can and should order a new trial without any evidentiary hearing,” they wrote.
The juror told multiple outlets that his experience of sexual abuse as a child helped sway the jury toward conviction during deliberations. According to Reuters:
He said that after some of the jurors questioned the accuracy of the two women’s memories, he decided to share his own experience of being sexually abused as a child. He said that he remembered most important elements of what happened to him, but not every single detail. That swayed some jurors, he said.
“When I shared that, they were able to sort of come around on, they were able to come around on the memory aspect of the sexual abuse,” Scotty David, a 35-year-old Manhattan resident, told Reuters in a phone interview.
The juror told Reuters that he did not remember being asked about his alleged sexual assault:
During jury selection, hundreds of prospective jurors were given questionnaires asking, among other things, if they or anyone in their families had experienced sexual abuse, court records show.
For those who answered yes, the judge in the case asked during follow-up questioning if it would affect their ability to serve as a fair or impartial juror, the records show.
Scotty David said he did not recall being asked about his experience during follow-up questioning, known as voir dire. He said he “flew through” the initial questionnaire and also did not recall being asked on the form about personal experiences with sexual abuse, but that he would have answered honestly.
Maxwell was found guilty on December 29th, 2021, on 5 of 6 counts, including conspiracy to entice individuals under 17 to travel in interstate commerce with intent to engage in “illegal sexual activity”; conspiracy to transport individuals under 17 to travel in interstate commerce with intent to engage in “illegal sexual activity”; transportation of an individual under 17 with intent to engage in “illegal sexual activity”; conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of individuals under 18; and sex trafficking of an individual under 18.
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